MCFADDEN, P. J., RICKMAN and MARKLE, JJ.
McFADDEN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
jury trial, Fred Lee Cromartie was convicted of and
sentenced for the offenses of trafficking in cocaine
(OCGA § 16-13-31 (a)); possession of marijuana with the
intent to distribute (OCGA § 16-13-30 (j) (1)); driving
without a license (OCGA § 40-5-20 (a)); improper lane
change (OCGA § 40-6-123 (d)); and failure to maintain
lane (OCGA § 40-6-48 (1)). In the course of the
proceedings below, the trial court denied Cromartie's
motion to suppress drug evidence found in the rental car he
was driving when he was stopped for traffic violations;
denied Cromartie's motion for a directed verdict of
acquittal on all counts; and denied Cromartie's motion
for new trial, in which Cromartie had reiterated his
suppression and directed verdict arguments.
appeal, Cromartie argues that the trial court erred in
denying his motion for directed verdict because the evidence
was insufficient to authorize his convictions, but we find
that the evidence was sufficient. He also argues that the
trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress drug
evidence that was found during a traffic stop, but we find
the trial court's ruling was supported by sufficient
evidence. Finally, he argues that the trial court erred in
denying his motion for new trial, but we find this argument
fails because his claims regarding the sufficiency of the
evidence and his motion to suppress lack merit. So we affirm.
Sufficiency of the evidence.
trial, Cromartie moved for a directed verdict of acquittal on
every count of the indictment against him on the ground that
the evidence presented at trial was insufficient. The trial
court denied the motion. In his motion for new trial,
Cromartie again challenged the sufficiency of the evidence,
and the trial court again rejected his challenge. Cromartie
argues that these rulings were error because the evidence was
insufficient to authorize his convictions. On appellate
review, we apply "the standard espoused in Jackson
v. Virginia, [443 U.S 307, 319 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61
L.Ed.2d 560) (1979), ] to determine if the evidence, when
viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution,
supports the verdict." Lewis v. State, 296 Ga.
259, 261 (3) (765 S.E.2d 911) (2014) (citation and
punctuation omitted). As detailed below, we find that the
evidence was sufficient, so the trial court did not err in
denying either the motion for directed verdict or the motion
for new trial on sufficiency grounds.
most favorably to the prosecution, the evidence showed that
on December 2, 2015, law enforcement officers saw a rental
car with a Florida tag that was being driven erratically,
changing lanes without signaling, veering outside of its
lane, and speeding. Cromartie was driving the rental car. A
second vehicle, also with a Florida tag, was being driven
very closely behind the first car and mimicking that
car's actions, changing lanes whenever the first car
changed lanes. Cromartie's brother was driving the second
vehicle. The manner in which the two vehicles were being
driven and the fact that one was a rental car suggested to
the law enforcement officers that the vehicles might be
transporting drugs or otherwise engaged in illegal activity.
enforcement officers stopped both vehicles. Cromartie's
brother consented to a search of the second vehicle, which
yielded no contraband, and he and his passenger were released
with warnings and left the scene. Cromartie, however, was
arrested for giving false information to a law enforcement
officer when, after being asked by an officer for his
driver's license, he provided a copy of his brother's
license instead. The officers handcuffed Cromartie and placed
him in the back of a patrol car.
a drug-sniffing dog was brought to the scene, walked around
the outside of the rental car, and indicated that drugs were
inside the car. The officers then searched the car and found
vacuum-sealed bags of cocaine and marijuana in a duffel bag
in its cargo area and two bundles of cash, totaling $1901, in
the car's glove box. The cocaine was a mixture of 67
percent purity and weighed 53.9868 grams. The marijuana
weighed 15.575 ounces. An officer testified that these
amounts of marijuana and cocaine were not indicative of
the counts on which he was sentenced - trafficking in cocaine
and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute -
Cromartie argues that he was entitled to a directed verdict
of acquittal because there was insufficient evidence to show
that he either possessed those drugs or had the necessary
intent to be convicted of those offenses. A person commits
the felony offense of trafficking in cocaine, in violation of
OCGA § 16-13-31 (a) (1), by being "in possession of
28 grams or more of cocaine or of any mixture with a purity
of 10 percent or more of cocaine[.]" And a person
violates OCGA § 16-13-30 (j) (1) by, among other ways,
"possess[ing] with intent to distribute marijuana."
to Cromartie's argument, the evidence supported a finding
that he was in possession of the bags of cocaine and
marijuana found in the cargo area of the car he was driving
when the law enforcement officers stopped him. Although
Cromartie did not own the car, the fact he was driving it
gave rise to a rebuttable presumption that he possessed the
drugs found within it. See Navarro v. State, 293
Ga.App. 329, 331 (667 S.E.2d 125) (2008); Johnson v.
State, 195 Ga.App. 577, 578 (394 S.E.2d 359) (1990).
"Whether the evidence presented at trial supported or
rebutted that presumption was a question for the jury."
Navarro, supra (citation omitted).
argues that other persons could have had access to the rental
car and, therefore, the jury was not authorized to find the
drugs were in his possession. He cites the rule that the
rebuttable presumption discussed above "does not apply
if it can be shown that a defendant has not been in
possession or control [of the automobile] for a period before
discovery of contraband or where others have had equal access
to the automobile." Ledesma v. State, 251 Ga.
487 (1) (306 S.E.2d 629) (1983) (citation omitted). Instead,
under such circumstances, "the prior possession or equal
access rule would demand an acquittal. However, if there is
additional evidence of possession of contraband by the
accused - either circumstantial or direct, other than mere